2012 was a banner year for literary adaptations. If we count comics (which, don’t worry geeks, we will), then the top 7 most profitable films last year were based on books. Not to mention the fact that half of the 2012 Best Picture nominees (Argo, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Les Misérables and Silver Linings Playbook) are also literary adaptations. So that’s both critical and popular success. If it ain’t broke, why would Hollywood fix it? This year welcomes a whole new crop of page-to-screen properties. Given the success of both Twilight and The Hunger Games, it’s no surprise that this list includes many Young Adult novels. But mixed in among the teenaged witches, zombies and vampires, you’ll find some weightier material. A good adaptation is tricky but a great adaptation is nearly impossible. And while a filmmaker is at an advantage if he or she is working from a short story with the perfect amount of narrative meat and the right amount of room for poetic license (Brokeback Mountain, Shawshank Redemption, Memento), any filmmaker who can pull off a full-length novel has my utmost admiration and respect. Here are 20 upcoming movies based on books that’ll be sure to get your pages turning. I’ve left off sequels and retreads (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and that recycled bit of Nicholas Sparks fluff). So, book worms, get excited for the year to come. Check it out (but read the book first).
Warm Bodies (February 1, 2013): This oddly warm-blooded zom-com based on Isaac Marion’s book is already out in theaters and shouldn’t really be on a list of “upcoming” films. But it is so surprisingly good I couldn’t ignore it. Directed by the great Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Wackness) and featuring a phenomenal cast, the off-beat premise of dead boy meets girl is more than you would expect from a zombie movie.
Beautiful Creatures (February 14th, 2013): This Southern Gothic Wiccan series seems poised to take up the Twilight mantel. There are four books in the series which means they could spin out, oh, at least seven movies. But if supernatural teenaged angst isn’t your thing, then don’t ignore the stellar adult cast buried under all the Bella/Edwardian shenanigans. Surely the presence of Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis lends this franchise some credibility.
Admission (March 22nd, 2013): The pairing of nerdy comic powerhouses Tina Fey and Paul Rudd is so delicious I’m amazed it hasn’t been done before. The book by Jean Hanff Korelitz has been called “brainy chick lit,” but I’d say it’s a little deeper that that categorization would suggest. The protagonist, Portia Nathan, isn’t exactly the Tina Fey we know and love from “30 Rock,” but she might go a long way towards filling that Liz Lemon-shaped hole in your heart.
The Company You Keep (April 5th, 2013): Neil Gordon’s tightly wound family drama and legal thriller is completely perfect for a Robert Redford project. Though Redford has a penchant for the political, he is at his best as a director when there are strong familial threads to explore (Ordinary People, A River Runs Through It). This is an unusual blend of the two genres and with an all-star cast including Susan Sarandon, Chris Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Brit Marling, Shia LeBeouf and Redford himself, it’s almost too big to fail
Oblivion (April 19th, 2013): This Tom Cruise vehicle based on the comic book of the same name is a risky undertaking. Set in the future and on another planet, the movie will certainly be slick-looking. But given that the only other credit on director (and comic book co-author) Joseph Kosinski’s resume is the glossy but disappointing TRON: Legacy, I’m not sure there will be much substance underneath the shiny surfaces.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (April 24th, 2013): Director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair) delivers what is, by all accounts, a very faithful adaptation of Mohsin Hamad’s examination of what it means to be a Pakistani-American in a post-9/11 world.
Pain & Gain (April 26th, 2013): Though not based on a book, this bombastic film from Michael Bay draws inspiration from a three part “Miami New Times” article about the body building scene and crime rings in Florida. You can read the entire piece here, and I highly recommend that you do. It’s insane.
Oz The Great And Powerful (March 8th, 2013): Though this Sam Raimi film is ostensibly based on the works of L. Frank Baum, it looks to have about as much in common with his Oz books as Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland did with the works of Lewis Carroll. It might be a sumptuous bit of CGI wizardry, but I’m afraid it will be sorely lacking in both heart and brains.
The Great Gatsby (May 10th, 2013): Baz Luhrmann’s hotly anticipated adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic was originally slated to come out this past Christmas and was pushed back due to some budgetary issues and reshoots. Ever the style master, Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge) has delivered the perfect Jazz Age look. While some may be put off by the anachronistic music he’s chosen for the film, a little hip-hip certainly didn’t hurt Django Unchained.
World War Z (June 21st, 2013): Max Brooks’ wildly popular zombie book should, at the very least, be fun to watch. It’ll be tricky, however, for even a veteran like director Marc Foster to capture the unique “oral history” gimmick of the original book. It looks like he may not even try.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (August 23rd, 2013): Another contender for the Twilight throne, this first installment based on the insanely popular YA series lacks the actorly pedigree of Beautiful Creatures. Also, if the recent Mirror, Mirror is any indication, Lilly Collins is not a strong enough actress to build a franchise around. Then again…Kristen Stewart.
Serena (September 27th, 2013): Hot on the heels of their much lauded pairing in Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper will play a married couple in the 1920s. When Lawrence’s character discovers she can’t have children everything goes off the rails. Ron Rash’s extraordinarily violent book is an odd choice for these two, but I’m eager to see what they do with it.
Paranoia (October 4th, 2013): Another Wall Street “greed is
good bad” drama in the vein of Arbitrage and Margin Call this is the lesser Hemsworth’s opportunity to step out of his brother’s god-like shadow.
The Seventh Son (October 18th, 2013): The siren song of the supernatural is so loud it’s even snared Julianne Moore. She’ll be chewing up the scenery as the villainous Mother Malkin in this 18th century adventure story. The first in a series (honestly, what isn’t these days?), it tells the story of one young man’s attempt to defend his village.
Carrie (October 18th, 2013): If you’ve never read Stephen King’s classic novel, I strongly recommend it. And while the classic 1976 film wasn’t really in need of an update, the casting of Chloë Grace Moretz (aka “Hit-Girl”) as the bullied teen Carrie is inspired.
Romeo and Juliet (October 25th, 2013): So maybe you haven’t read King, but I certainly hope you’ve read this, one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. The 17 year-old Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) is awfully close to the right age for young Juliet. With Damien Lewis (Homeland) playing her domineering father and Ed Westwick (Gossip Girl) taking on the role of her volatile cousin Tybalt, Verona is going to be full of familiar faces.
Ender’s Game (November 1st, 2013): Of all the films on this list, this one is likely to cause the most controversy. Ender’s Game is such a beloved sci-fi novel that it would be nearly impossible to adapt it in a way that would satisfy the millions of young men and women who grew up reading it. But Asa Butterfield (Hugo) is excellent casting for young Ender and Juliet herself, Hailee Steinfeld, is a most excellent choice for Petra. As for Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff, well, that remains to be seen.
The Monuments Men (December 18th, 2013): The full title of this book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and The Greatest Treasure Hunt In History will clue you in that this is basically Band of Brothers meets Ocean’s 11. Who better, then, to tell the story of the special force of American and British museum directors, curators and art historians who risked their lives to prevent the Nazis from destroying thousands of years of culture than George Clooney, Daniel Craig, Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett. It’s something you and your grandpa can enjoy.
Jack Ryan (December 25th, 2013): Chris Pine will be the fourth cinematic Jack Ryan (after Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck). Not sure Tom Clancy’s Cold War super spy is the hero we’ve been clamoring for. But maybe he’s the one we deserve.
The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (December 25th, 2013): Finally, I am the most leery of this Ben Stiller-lead interpretation of James Thurber’s classic daydreamer Walter Mitty. Maybe it’s because the 1947 Danny Kaye film is so perfect or maybe it’s because Ben Stiller, of late, has demonstrated a hacky, ham-fisted touch when it comes to directing. Either way, I hope against hope that he manages to strike the perfect balance between sweetness and silliness. In the meantime, Topoketa, Topoketa, Topoketa, Topoketa…
And a few upcoming films to keep your eye on…